Eurozone back in recession in Q3
The 17-country Euro-zone has bowed to the inevitable and fallen back into recession for the first time in three years as a sprawling debt crisis took its toll on the region's stronger economies.
And with surveys pointing to increasingly depressed conditions across the Eurozone at a time of high unemployment in many countries, there are fears that the recession will deepen, and make the debt crisis even more difficult to handle.
Official figures Thursday showed that the Eurozone contracted by 0.1 per cent in the July to September period from the quarter before as economies, including Germany and the Netherlands, suffer from falling demand.
The decline reported by Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, was in line with market expectations and follows on from the 0.2 per cent fall recorded in the second quarter. As a result, the Eurozone is officially in recession, commonly defined as two straight quarters of falling output.
"We can dispense with the euphemisms and equivocation, and openly proclaim that the euro-area economy is indeed in technical recession," said James Ashley, senior European economist at RBC Capital Markets.
The Eurozone's economy is worth around €9.5 trillion, or US$12.1 trillion, which puts it on a par with the United States economy.
The region, with its 332 million population, is the US' largest export customer, and any fall-off in demand will hit order books.
Europe's economies have been on a downward spiral - and there is little sign of any improvement in the near term.
Even Germany is struggling now as confidence wanes and exports drain in light of the debt problems afflicting large chunks of the Eurozone.
Germany's economy grew a muted 0.2 per cent in the third quarter, down from a 0.3 per cent increase in the previous quarter. Over the past year, Germany's annual growth rate has more than halved to 0.9 per cent from 1.9 per cent.
Perhaps the most dramatic decline among the eurozone's members was seen in the Netherlands, whose economy shrank 1.1 per cent on the previous quarter.
Five Eurozone countries are in recession — Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus.
Those five are also at the centreof Europe's debt crisis and are imposing austerity measures, such as cuts to pensions and increases to taxes, in an attempt to stay afloat.
Spain and Greece have unemployment rates of over 25 per cent. Their young people are faring even worse with every other person out of work. As well as being a cost to governments who have to pay out more for benefits, it carries a huge social and human cost.
Protests across Europe on Wednesday highlighted the scale of discontent and with economic surveys pointing to the downturn getting worse, the voices of anger may well get louder still.
"The likelihood is that this anger will continue to grow unless European leaders and policymakers start to act as if they have a clue as to how to resolve the crisis starting to unravel before their eyes," said Michael Hewson, markets analyst at CMC Markets.
The wider 27-nation EU, which includes non-euro countries, avoided the same fate. It saw output rise 0.1 per cent during the quarter, largely on the back of an Olympics-related boost in Britain.
The EU's output as a whole is greater than the US. It is also a major source of sales for the world's leading companies.
Forty per cent of McDonald's global revenue comes from Europe - more than it generates in the US. General Motors, meanwhile, sold 1.7 million vehicles in Europe last year, a fifth of its worldwide sales.